Steaking a claim

I have been shamefully neglectful of my blog recently, and I apologize profusely to my dedicated readers. It’s not that I haven’t had plenty to write about. Too much if anything. It’s just that I’ve been having such a splendid time – holidaying successively in France, Italy and Greece; hosting the Liverpool Food Festival Awards; to Sardinia to be a fisherman for a day and then a goat herd; a jolly evening at Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in Rock; capering around at the Abergavenny and Aldeburgh Food Festivals; chatting away at the Lichfield (a really delightful town, with a soaring Gothic perpendicular cathedral and home Samuel Johnson, David Garrick and Erasmus Darwin) Literary Festival, and so on and so on – that I haven’t found space to log another entry. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I will now set out to repair the damage, make good the omissions, fill in the odd blank and generally set the world to rights.

I might as well start with the steak I ate at Il Boschetto just outside Licenza in the Monte Lucretili, some 30 or so miles north east of Rome. It was the finest steak I have eaten all year, just as it was when I ate there last year, and the year before that and the year before that. I know that I’ve said that there’s more bollocks written about steak than about almost any other food topic. All that stuff about USDA steak vs Argentinean vs Australian, breed specific steaks hungfor three weeks or three years, treated in this way or that Josper grill. Or is it Lynx? Or what about the trusty Weber. Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks.

The steak at Il Boschetto is called a lombata di vitellone, which, as far as I can make out, means it’s a single rib taken from an animal
around 10 months old. The rib weighs about 1.4kg with the bone in, and it costs 18 Euros. What breed it is, what its provenance is, how long has it been hung – I have no idea on these vital questions. All I can tell you is that it’s a massive piece of meat that has been cooked very precisely over charcoal, and transferred to a warm metal plate set into a naff wooden frame. It comes with no sauce, no sprig of parsley or watercress, no vegetables, no adornment, just a quarter of lemon.

Ah, but the eating of it. First it’s nicely tanned in parts and glossy with fat all over. It doesn’t melt in the mouth, thank God. There’s a bit of chew to it, although I would never describe it as tough, just decently textured so that as your – my – teeth bare down on it, the fibers resisted, then parted, sending those divine slighted malted, slightly musky, slightly iron filings, penetrating, opulent, beefy flavours trickling over the taste buds.

Of course, I couldn’t finish it, and so Il Boschetto packed the remains in a box, and my brothers, Johnny and James, and their respective wives, Emma and Dilou, and I ate it in salad form (plus capers, chopped shallots, chopped cornichons, parsley and a vinaigrette perky with mustard, the next day.

Note 1: I wanted to illustrate this with a picture of the said lombata taken on my phone, but I don’t seem t be able to transfer it from phone to pc. My incompetence, I’m sure.

Note: Il Boschetto isn’t pretty or folkloric in any way, but it does what it does very well, and at a very reasonable price. In particular, they do brilliant pizzas the size of cart wheels in the Roman style (ie. thin, crisp base, easy on the toppings) and textbook suppli, those weighty deep fried bombs of rice filled with mozzarella, which melts when cooked, and becomes engagingly attached to your lower lip when eaten, while still linked to the suppl, forming long, thin strands of molten cheese, hence the name suppli al telefono.

Osteria Antico Boschetto, via Tre Olive, Licenza, Italy. Tel: 00 39 0774 46177

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